Dangerous conditions on Alabama coast ahead of Tropical Storm Karen

National Weather Service's projected track of Tropical Storm Karen released Thursday, October 3, 2013. (NWS Image)

GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) - Officials are warning people to stay out of the surf along Alabama's coast because of dangerous conditions ahead of tropical storm Karen.

Safety officials are flying double red flags at Gulf Shores because of treacherous rip currents, and they say conditions will only get worse through the day on Thursday.

Alabama's two coastal counties and nearly the entire northern Gulf Coast are under a hurricane watch. The latest forecast track shows the storm could come ashore in Alabama late Saturday or early Sunday.

The storm could affect preparations for one of the largest fall events on the Alabama coast, the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores. Tents are supposed to begin going up over the weekend.

Forecasters say Karen could cause heavy rains and storm surge on the coast.